With more than 30 malls to choose from, Orchard Road is Singapore’s undisputed shopping mecca, providing some of the best shopping in Singapore. Once the scene of pepper and nutmeg plantations and fruit orchards, this 2.2km-long street is now the go-to place for, well, just about anything. You’ll find high street names aplenty, as well as representation from some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, including Gucci, Cartier, Hermès and Louis Vuitton to name just a few.
Orchard Road Singapore is, in short, the place to go for indulgent shopping. And, there’s nothing wrong with a spot of retail therapy. After all, there are countless brands, both big and small, which are making a strong social impact across the globe by empowering local communities. Countless studies have also shown the long-term benefits for towns and cities which are able to preserve unique businesses with distinctive character.
The current global retail landscape, however, brings the risk that every high street in the world can end up looking the same, with the same chain stores and the same brands springing up no matter where you are. Without independent stores, not only can high streets become identikit, but shopping while travelling runs the risk of being a dull affair. Not only that but your spending money can go into the pockets of big brands, rather than helping the local communities you are visiting. You also don’t want to buy exactly the same piece of clothing or homeware on your trip as you can at home.
However, forward-thinking city planners have realised the benefit of supporting independent stores and designers. San Francisco, for example, famously has its Formula Retail policy to regulate the number and location of chain stores and maintain the character of its
In Singapore, Design Orchard steps in to ensure you can pick up a truly unique, stylish find which is not only beautiful, but which supports talented Singaporean designers. Housed in a striking building, with glass frontage, retro-style circular cutouts on its concrete walls and a parasol laden roof terrace at its peak, Design Orchard can be easy to miss because of its location next to other, bigger shopping malls in Singapore.
Sitting between its flashier neighbours, the 313@Somerset mall and department store Robinsons The Heeren, it could be easy to walk past. But, if you do, you’ll be doing yourself, and the independent designers who make, sell and show their goods within its glass-fronted walls a disservice.
Showcasing 61 home-grown labels, Design Orchard, which is spearheaded by Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board and property developers JTC, shines the spotlight on Singapore designers and their creations. Built especially to nurture local designers, Design Orchard has a retail showcase on the ground floor, operated by home grown retailer Naiise, where you’ll find fashion accessories, food, beauty and wellness products, souvenirs and stationary, and yoga and sportswear, making it arguably the best shopping mall in Singapore. Each brand is ethical and sustainable in its own way, so you can be sure you are not only supporting the individual designers but that you are also giving back in so many ways to everyone involved in the creation of these unique products as well as to the local economy.
Take a look at the amazing The Animal Project, a social enterprise which sells stunning lifestyle products featuring artwork drawn by talented artists with special needs. Take home some jewelry from Eden + Elie which is all handmade in Singapore, choose the clean simple lines and sustainable material of fashion store Esse, treat yourself to swimwear from Pink Salt Swim Co or customise your own clothing with Pew Pew Patches.
There’s also the incredible fashion store MATTER, which sources heritage prints and styles from artisans around the globe while reinterpreting them in a modern manner. The aim is to impact a change beyond textiles – to make rural artisan production sustainable while shifting designers’ approach to their processes and inspiring customers to value the provenance of what they are wearing. And, above all that, the designs are truly unique, stylish, wearable and timeless. You can’t help but feel good for all sorts of reasons when you wear a MATTER design.
littlematchgirl is another brand that firmly believes sustainability is more than a trend. Designs are made to last, with timeless cuts and ethically sourced fabrics. Each piece is crafted with the ultimate care by tailors who earn a fair wage for their work. Not only that, but each design features unique elements of asymmetry and craftsmanship which certainly wouldn’t look out of place on the runways of the top fashion houses.
For your home, choose from the unique Singapore prints at Photo Phactory, light a candle from Temple to evoke memories of your trip, take home a printed cushion cover or teddy bear inspired by Singaporean heritage from Onlewo or just treat yourself or a loved one to a bar of Durian-flavoured chocolate from Chocoelf.
If you’re thinking about where to shop in Singapore, these are just some of the incredible independents all under one roof on the ground floor. It has all the convenience of a department store – but with a local, sustainable bent! Upstairs, there are incubation and co-working spaces so, if you happen to be a digital nomad, or you just want to soak in the atmosphere for a while, you can always book one of the hot desks. On the top level, you’ll find a public rooftop space, which often plays host to events and art installations. You never know, you might just get the opportunity to meet some of the rising stars of the design industry or to make your own souvenir at one of the regular craft workshops.
If you have the opportunity, you should also take a peek into The Cocoon Space (TCS), a dedicated workspace operated by the Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF), which offers the perfect place to develop a community of talented, local fashion designers. There’s a work space with industrial grade sewing machines, along with a dedicated space for designers to exhibit their work. Here, you’ll also find the TENCEL studio where designers are able to work with one of the most eco-friendly fabrics in the world.
Even if you don’t buy anything at all – although it’s hard to see how you would resist – it’s worth a trip to Design Orchard for the roof terrace in the heart of Orchard Road alone. It’s also well worth a visit to take a photo at one of Singapore’s most Insta-worthy, but little known, spots – Design Orchard’s concrete wall with row after row of circular windows. Designed by local award-winning architecture firm WOHA Architects, the building itself is a thing of beauty, and it houses beautiful things. What’s not to love?
After all, whether you’ve lived in Singapore your whole life, you’re in the Lion City for work, or you’re just visiting for a few days, wouldn’t you rather take something home with you that is truly unique – that will make you proud to be Singaporean, or that will remind you of your trip
for years to come? You’ll find Design Orchard on the junction of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road – just make sure you don’t walk past!